John Sandford’s Storm Front
What new authors can learn from reading Storm Front
I’ve been a Sandford fan from day one. His Prey series has been my favorite; I eagerly awaited each new release. Unfortunately, some of his later works have not been favorites, and with Storm Front, Sandford’s latest, the author has hit an all time low. If I hadn’t been a long-time fan, I’d never have finished the book.
Since The DaVinci Code became a blockbusting success, everyone’s writing books about an ancient relic that if made public, would change the world of religion, as we know it. For me, most of them are nothing but 400 page chase scenes. Not my personal taste, but they have become extremely popular.
Who could imagine Sandford fitting this type of storyline into a Virgil Flowers novel! Storm Front stars Virgil Flowers, a character who, like Lucas Davenport before Sandford married him off, is a super-sleuth, and super-successful womanizer. The story opens when Flowers is assigned a case involving an ancient inscribed stone, whose message, if shared with the world, would create chaos in the middle east. The man who stole the stone from a dig in Israel is from Minnesota and is known to have returned to the US with it. Flowers is assigned the case, begins looking for the man, finds the thief missing (of course!) and within a matter of days, he encounters at least four factions (all armed and dangerous) that are also in pursuit of the stone, which is estimated to be worth millions of dollars.
Now, despite the theme of the book, the story does captivate the reader. Flowers is an interesting character, and I did enjoy his investigation and interplay with the people seeking the stone. About halfway through, however, something happened, that if I weren’t a devoted Sandford fan, I would have quit reading the book.
When Flowers finally gets the stone in his possession, did he find a vault to put it in? A bank? A police station? A Brinks truck? People have been shot at, nearly killed, assassins are part of the chase, (not to mention, once more, the thing is worth millions), and Flowers takes it home with him and stores it in his dishwasher. The reader is expected to believe this character, solver of all crimes, would be that stupid. It’s no surprise to the reader that the stone is stolen during the night.
After that I had a hard time forcing myself to finish reading the book, but I finally made it through, extremely disappointed with the story.
I couldn’t help but think of the valuable lessons new authors can learn from Storm Front.
1. Sandford’s writing has two huge strengths: interesting characters and rich dialogue. These two things that can go a long way toward making a so-so story an interesting read.
2. No matter how hackneyed the theme, Sandford, at least in the first half of the book, captivates the reader, proving once again the old adage: there are no new stories—just new ways of crafting them for the reader.
3. Be warned that the John Sandfords of the literary world are the only ones who can get away with a character doing something as idiotic as storing the relic at home. Beware of making your characters behave as if they had an IQ the size of their waistline, or as a fellow writer puts it, too dumb to live.
Long before I became an author myself, I was a reader, and still am. I love suspense and follow most of the great suspense authors. I’m making an effort to learn from the books I read and to share these lessons with you.
Thanks for visiting and have a wonderful Thanksgiving,